Nagaland rights activist exposes India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act

28 Nov

[At the end of this article, we are running a news report from May 2010 on the brutal suppression of a demonstration of Naga people by Manipur’s police commandos (see picture at right), who coordinate their actions with the Indian army. Nagaland and Manipur are two of the seven small states in northeast India that are occupied, as is Kashmir, by the Indian army and are fighting for self-determination]
Sanhati, November 15, 2010

Misguided or Deliberate Policy: Armed Rebellion and Political Conflict

By Neingulo Krome

[This paper was presented in a Seminar on “Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act” during the Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace held at Imphal from November 2 – 6, 2010. The author is a former Secretary General of NPMHR]

At the outset I want to thank the Just Peace Foundation for giving us this opportunity of deliberating issues of common concern in a most befitting and elaborate manner, commemorating it with the completion of 10 years of Irom Sharmila’s Fast unto Death against one of the most draconian and anti-democratic law in India. In this aspect, I also want to salute Ms Irom Sharmila for her courage and ability to demonstrate the highest humanly possible sacrifice for the cause of not only the “ten slaughtered civilians at Malom Village” by personnel of the Indian Security Forces, but for humanity as a whole.

Am sure, when she decided to protest to demand the removal of the AFSPA, she did not do it for fame or glory but just took out the best of the “humanity in her” for the sake of millions of defenceless civilians and even for those people who are devoid of humanity and perpetrates inhuman acts against fellow human beings.

Having said that, going by the analysis of various international monitoring agencies, including those of the United Nations, it is clear that the Government of India made an “over-zealous effort to integrate the people of the North East into their so-called national mainstream by using the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act”. Therefore, this is a deliberate policy of the Government of India against the people of North East starting with the Naga Movement as one of the first group of people who asserted their identities as – Nagas and “not Indians” and launched a political movement which turned into an armed resistance movement under military compulsion.

This Act was then enacted as The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act of 1958 as the present State of Nagaland was just a district under Assam at that time and Manipur with the present Naga Hills districts a Union Territory. After Manipur became a full-fledged state in 1972 along with Meghalaya and Tripura, this Act was again amended in 1972 in order to extend this Act to the newly created states. Whatever the nomenclature or target group may have been at that point of time, the people of North East India as a whole, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir and many parts of the Indian sub-continent now reels under the shadow of this “death penalty” – “Shot to kill” anyone on mere suspicion. This is what the Government of India is apparently seeking to address through the AFSPA.

Its efficacies can be summarised on the fact that, rather than integrating the people of North East or wherever political conflict exist, it has only alienated the people and increased social and political unrest with the multiplication of armed resistance groups. And in so far as the personnel of the Indian Security forces are concerned; they have effectively executed various categories of protecting “national security” in exercise of powers conferred under the AFSPA, such as; (and I quote from the report of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi after the Supreme Court’s Judgement on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in 1997 was pronounced under the caption “An Illusion of Justice” published in 1998)

a. Extra-judicial killings

b. Extra-Judicial deprivation of the liberty of people, specially in villages including;

i. Grouping
ii. Illegal imposition of curfew
iii. Long periods of detention at army posts and camps
iv. Use of churches and schools as detention or interrogation centres
v. Setting up of illegal interrogation centres
vi. Rape, molestation and sexual harassment of women
vii. Forced labour
viii. Looting of homes
ix. Desecration of places of worship, specially churches
x. Torture which is mainly carried out with a view to extract confessions which is a serious crime under section 330 and 331 of the Indian Penal Code. The torture includes, beating with rifle butts, kicking with boots and hitting with blunt weapons, giving electric shocks, breaking limbs, depriving person of food drinks and sleep, hanging a person upside down and beating on soles, burying a person alive, stripping, blindfolding and hooding, stuffing chilli powder into eyes, nose and private parts, tying of hands and feet and suspending a person over fire with a bamboo in between the hands and legs, threats to shot, interrogation at gun point.

However, these reports do not include killings through fake-encounters, which almost became a daily practice in Imphal valley in the recent times, so also in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of North east India, including the many parts of the “so-called” mainland India wherever social, economic and political conflict persists. There are also so many practices of harassments like checking and frisking, interrogations on the streets, etc. which need not be discussed in details.

Nevertheless, based on the foundation of such experiences, even before the AFSPA was enacted in 1958, for the Nagas, the Assam Maintenance of Public Order of 1953 was enough to raze our entire villages to ashes. And even after AFSPA was enforced, another Act called the Nagaland Security Regulation of 1962 was passed. These were subsequently followed by the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, in 1972, Maintenance of Internal security Act (MISA) under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency in 1975 and so on. Needless to describe, but the sufferings of the people were just too much to bear even for people who were mere witnesses.

Under such circumstances it is only natural that Civil Rights Movements are launched. Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) is one such Civil Rights Movement in Nagaland which was formed in 1978 to respond to the need of the time. Similarly, in the context of the North East as a whole, we also had the North East Coordination Committee on Human Rights (NECOHR). When Oinam incident took place in 1987, Civil Rights groups of Manipur came together and formed the Coordination Committee on Oinam Issue (COCOI).

Likewise in the backdrop of heightened violence in Imphal Valley in the 70s and 80s, various likeminded people from different background came together to take up human rights issues under the banner of Civil Liberties and Human Rights Organisations (CLAHRO). There was also another umbrella organisation called the Coordination Committee on Human Rights (COHR) consisting of various communities of Manipur, like Kukis, Meiteis and Nagas etc. and jointly defended the civil population of Manipur from the excessiveness of the Security forces. And of course now we have the Human Rights Alert (HRA) and others which I may not be well aware of.

But if we are to move “towards a life with dignity” to confront those mechanism which strips us of our dignity and our very life itself, civil rights movements must be strengthened at all cost, although we must acknowledge, whether for good or for bad, armed resistances have played its own share of restoring dignity. Because in the absence of any strong Civil Rights Movement no Government will listen to the pleadings of “suffering souls” as long as they can comfortably remain in their respective powers.

Therefore, the main challenge before us today is to question ourselves, how we can build a strong Civil Rights Movement. Even now we do have many such movements which are all strong in their own ways, but are fragmented in terms of team-work. If our visions are common and if we can live and work on those ethics together, at least on common issues, I see no reasons why we cannot have good team-work.

Let me end this presentation with an analysis as a footnote which say; “The Armed Forces Special Powers Act contravenes both Indian and International law standards. This was exemplified when India presented its second periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1991. Members of the UNHRC asked numerous questions about the validity of the AFSPA, questioning how the AFSPA could be deemed constitutional under Indian law and how it could be justified in light of Article 4 of the ICCPR.

The Attorney General of India relied on the sole argument that the AFSPA is a necessary measure to prevent the secession of the North Eastern states. He said that a response to this agitation for secession in the North East had to be done on a “war footing.” He argued that the Indian Constitution, in Article 355, made it the duty of the Central Government to protect the states from internal disturbance and that there is no duty under international law to allow secession”.

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest” – Ella Baker (An African-American civil rights leaders).


Zolengthe. net, May 7, 2010

Naga’s Protest Turns Bloody

Mao Gate | May 6 : Two persons were killed and more than a hundred injured when Manipur police commandoes fired on thousands of villagers staging a protest rally here at Mao Gate, some 32 kms from Kohima. A combined force of Manipur Rifles, IRB and police commandoes fired more than 200 teargas shells and later resorted to blank and blind firing to quell the protestors staging a rally against imposition of 144CrPC in Mao area. While two persons were killed on the spot, another was reported to be in critical condition at Naga Hospital, Kohima.

Around 10 am, villagers of Mao area congregated at Mao Gate and staged a protest rally at Mao Gate against imposition of 144 CrPC and high handedness” of the police commandoes. “Get out commandoes,” the rallyists shouted and as the volume increased and protestors swelled in numbers, the commandoes first fired more than fifty teargas shells to disperse the rallyists, followed by blank firing.

The protestors reciprocated by throwing stones at the security personnel and besieging the Town Hall where the police commandoes were quartered. Some of the enraged seized the bedding and clothing of the commandoes and set them on fire. The protestors also damaged at least 6 vehicles of the security personnel. Two youths were shot dead in the Town Hall when some commandoes fired at them at point blank range. According to villagers, the rallyists also beat up two police personnel and snatched one teargas gun.

The two deceased been identified as one Loshou, son of Daikho of Kalinamai village and a BA 2nd year student of St. Joseph College, Jakhama, and Chakho, son of Neli of Kalinamai village, also a BA 2nd year student of St. Joseph College, Bangalore. According to the Red Cross Society, Nagaland branch, one N Lokho (30), son of Nishini of Songsong village was in critical condition at the hospital.

As the death of the two students in town hall spread and the commandoes stepping up their firing, the protestors slowly began to disperse, and began to stay indoors. More than an hour after the main street was deserted, the commandoes stationed atop the building near the Taxi parking directed tear gas shells on the houses below.

Manipur police kills two students at Mao Gate

The commandoes also aimed their guns at any movement of people even outside their homes.
Majority of the 74 injured listed at CHC Mao till 2pm were women who were leading the rally in the initial stage. NSF president Mutsikhoyo Yhobu who was also witness to the firing, later visited CHC Mao and donated Rs. 10,000 to the injured. The Nagaland Red Cross also rushed in life saving medicines to CHC Mao besides lifting some of the injured to hospitals in Kohima.

It was reported that DGP Nagaland K Kire also visited the injured at the CHC. At CHC, the driver of an ambulance who came with some injured at around 2.10pm said that the commandoes fired teargas at even the ambulance.

Meanwhile, late afternoon at the Mao-Khuzama border, IGP (LO3) V Zathang of the Manipur police told mediapersons and the people from Nagaland side that the commandoes had not resorted to any kind of firing. “We don’t have firing order,” he claimed and also denied that there was any casualty. On the other hand, the IGP alleged that some of his personnel and arms were missing. Meanwhile, fearing the worst almost all villagers of Songsong and Kalinamai villages have fled their homes by late evening and are taking shelter in neighbouring villages including Khuzama on the Nagaland side.

Meanwhile the management, staff and students of St. Joseph’s college, Jakhama condoled the death of Mr. Dikho Loshuo II. B.A. “B” (sociology honours) who died at the police firing at Mao gate on Thursday, 6th May, 2010. This was stated in a condolence message issued by Fr. Isaac Padinjarekuttu Principal.

Naga MLAs in Manipur resign

Dimapur, May 6 (MExN): The Naga independent MLAs of the Manipur Legislative Assembly today resigned on moral ground in the wake of what it termed as the unprovoked firing upon the civilians at Mao Gate this morning killing and injuring many men and women folk in the process. “We share the grief and sentiments of the people who are killed and injured in the unprovoked firing.

We see no reason why a state government should take such action which would sabotage the Naga peace process. Hence we the undersigned are tendering our resignation as members of the State Legislative Assembly on moral ground”, stated the resignation letter addressed to the Speaker of the Manipur Assembly. The MLAs are stationed in Delhi.

Those who send in their resignation to the Speaker included W. Morung Makunga, MLA (Tenugopal), Awangbow Newmai, MLA (Tamei), K. Raina, MLA (Tadubi), Dr Khashim Ruivah, MLA (Chingai), M Thohreii, MLA (Mao) and Wungnaoshang Keishing, MLA (Phungyar). The MLAs in their resignation letter pointed out that they had requested the State government to reconsider the Cabinet decision to ban the entry of Mr Muivah, the Chief Negotiator of the NSCN/GPRN in the Indo-Naga peace talk. While appreciating the Centre for allowing Muivah to travel to his native village of Somdal, the MLAs regretted that the Manipur government by stationing security forces along the route had created a war like situation. The MLAs also informed that they had come to Delhi to seek an appointment with the Prime Minister and Home Minister in order to apprise them of the situation but they could only meet RS Pandey, the Interlocutor of the Government of India. The Naga MLAs told Pandey to speed up the peace process so as to bring permanent peace and honorable solution.

Manipur CM meets Pranab, Chidambaram, Antony

New Delhi, May 6 (PTI): Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh today met Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and A K Antony and briefed them about the prevailing situation in his state in the wake of NSCN-IM leader T Muivah’s proposed visit. Singh was summoned to the national capital following the tensed situation in Manipur and Nagaland in the wake of now-postponed visit of Muivah to his ancestral village in Manipur’s Ukhrul district. During the 20-minute meeting, Singh is understood to have told the Central leaders that if Muivah is allowed to go to Manipur, the situation in the state may deteriorate as people are against the visit of the Naga rebel leader. The Central leaders are believed to have asked Singh to be cautious and take utmost care in taking any decision in this regard.

Muivah puts off visit to ancestral village in Manipur

Visema (Nagaland), May 6 (PTI): NSCN-IM leader T Muivah on Thursday put off his visit to his ancestral village across the Nagaland border in Manipur’s Ukrul district on the request of four Naga NGOs. Speaking to a small gathering in Visema, where he spent the night after arriving from NSCN-IM headquarters at Camp Hebron near Dimapur on Wednesday, Muivah said he was postponing his visit to Somdal village, where he was born, after the NGOs requested him to put off his visit by a day or two till the situation returns to normal in Manipur.

He reiterated that he did not understand why the Manipur government was opposing his visit. “I am not going to create a disturbance. I am going for peace and to meet my people,” he said.

Civil groups demand Judicial Probe

Dimapur, May 6 (MExN): Indian civil society organizations today demanded a judicial probe into the firing by Manipur police forces that left three students dead and about a hundred injured at Mao Gate, Nagaland-Manipur border. The Indian civil organizations met in an emergency press meeting in New Delhi today.

The organizations, along with Naga MLAs from Manipur urged for peace but agreed that the situation is getting increasingly volatile even as minority communities in Manipur feel presently threatened by the heightened insecurity and historical discrimination. “Independent Naga MLAs from Manipur have resigned…they are demanding a judicial enquiry,” a statement received here said.

Members of Human Rights, civil society and democratic organizations, including South Asia Forum for Human Rights and Jawahar Lal Nehru University, spoke at the press conference. Condemning the police action and killing, the civil groups said the deployment of large number of security forces at the state borders, the unprovoked destruction of traditional welcome gates by the forces, and the total blockage of transit of all travelers from Nagaland to Manipur have triggered panic and insecurity among the local people.

These have all unnecessarily heightened tensions between different communities in the region, the statement said.
The speakers also called for lifting of the blockade of transport of goods and people from Imphal valley to the hills and at the Nagaland-Manipur border that had caused great hardships to ordinary people.

The speakers also alleged that Okram Ibobi Singh, the Chief Minister of Manipur, was using the situation to communally polarize the people for his own political gains.

“Naga MLAs from Manipur had earlier asked the CM to withdraw the illegal and controversial decision of the cabinet disallowing Mr. Muivah’s visit. In Delhi, upon not getting an appointment with the central Home Minister or the PM, they have sent in their resignations to the speaker of the Manipur Assembly,” the statement added.

South Nagas seek PM’s action

Dimapur, May 6 (MExN): The Naga frontal organizations in Manipur today listed a number of demands to the Prime Minister of India, to be met with prompt action. “So long as the given conditions are not fulfilled, we will have no option but to abstain from receiving the dead bodies of the two innocent students from the Police custody,” stated the memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister of India from the United Naga Council, Naga Women’s Union, Manipur, All Naga Students’ Association Manipur and Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights. ddd

The demands are that a judicial enquiry into the incident be instated; immediate withdrawal of 144 CRPC; immediate withdrawal of IRB and Police Commandos from the Naga areas; permit entry and safe passage to Mr. Th. Muivah to his native village and to peacefully complete his peace tour.

The Mao-Gate Tragedy

The Naga organizations also narrated the tragic turn of events: AN organization, the Mao Women’s Welfare Association under the aegis of the Naga Women’s Union of Manipur had organized peaceful rally at Mao Gate in Senapati district (under the administration of Manipur State) on May 4 and the 5th to protest against the Manipur State Cabinet’s decision banning the entry of Th. Muivah, general secretary of the NSCN (IM) to his native village, Somdal.

On the evening of May 5, at 6.30 PM one Ashihrii Puni, of Song Song village, a Mao tribal, aged 52 years was brutally assaulted without any reason by the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) of Manipur. On May 6, the public of the area organized a peaceful procession on National Highway 39 to protest against the savage act of the IRB.
“While the procession was being taken out, the Manipur state armed forces, without any warnings, started firing tear gas and stick bombs on the innocent public.

Soon after, they started firing randomly on the protestors and in the process two male students were shot dead and more than 80 persons, mainly women, sustained grievous bullet wounds and related injuries. The Manipur armed forces also damaged many vehicles parked on the National Highway, broke windows and kicked open doors of houses, arrested and assaulted 28 innocent boys, who were later released in the evening.”

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Posted by on November 28, 2010 in Uncategorized


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